Thanh Le is on the verge of breaking into the ONE Featherweight World Title picture, and a victory in his forthcoming match-up will move him a step closer to championship gold.
The Vietnamese-American star knows this is the most pivotal bout of his mixed martial arts career, but he is not shaken by the magnitude of the contest. Just days out from the event, he sounds confident of his chances in Bangkok, Thailand.
“This Takahashi fight is the most important fight in my life,” the New Orleans, Louisiana resident acknowledges.
“I’m going to beat him up for three rounds. If he wants to push the fight and bring the fight to me, then he might get laid out early.”
Since entering The Home Of Martial Arts, Le has become a dominant force in the featherweight division and has quickly developed a reputation as a knockout artist.
The 34-year-old had a successful promotional debut at ONE: FOR HONOR, as he knocked out Dagestani contender Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev with a devastating knee strike in the second round of their May clash.
Le followed that up with another sensational performance in his sophomore appearance at ONE: DREAMS OF GOLD this past August. In that bout, he knocked out former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku in just 88 seconds.
“Yusup was a monster, and Boku was a titleholder and an excellent counter fighter. So we got into those realms, ran the game the way we knew how, and did what we do best,” the Vietnamese-American explains.
“I’ve tried to put on the best shows that I can for the fans, and I think it just happened to work out that I got a couple of pretty nice knockouts.”
Takahashi, however, has some outstanding knockouts on his resumé, too.
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The Hyōgo, Japan native holds a 13-3 professional record with nine of those victories coming by way of KO. Also, he is riding an eight-bout win streak, which dates all the way back to 2015.
Just like Le, “Kaitai” had a dynamic showing in his own promotional debut at ONE: FOR HONOR. The 30-year-old defeated Malaysian contender Keanu Subba via first-round TKO, and he hopes to build off his momentum in the Thai capital.
The Vietnamese-American has studied his opponent carefully, however, and has figured out the key to beating him inside the Impact Arena.
“Takahashi does a really good job of sticking to – and executing – his game plan. He doesn’t easily break, and he is not undisciplined in his approach, so I’m going to continue to make him move his feet, and get out of his realm and comfortability,” Le explains.
“Being able to adapt in the ring, having a high fight IQ, and having an understanding of where certain things fit in the fight game [is important]. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve done martial arts for a long time, so I’m quick off the line and defensively sound as far as footwork and movement.”
Le is focused on the task at hand, as he knows Takahashi presents a very dangerous challenge.
A victory, especially in impressive fashion, will undoubtedly push him closer to an opportunity at Martin Nguyen’s ONE Featherweight World Championship belt.
The Vietnamese-American, however, is not looking to jump the line. He is content with defeating every possible contender until he is granted a crack at the gold.
“It’s obviously nice to hear my name [being mentioned with possibly] getting a title shot, but I’m not trying to rush anything,” he admits.
“I’m trying to beat all the best dudes in the division. I want to beat every single guy on the way up. I don’t want to skip anybody. I don’t want to take a shortcut to the title.
“The most important thing is to be the best in the division and the best in the world. I can’t skip guys if I want to do that.”